Review: Quick and Easy Thai by Nancie McDermott

Author: Nanci McDermott
Title: Quick and Easy Thai
Format/Source: eBook/Kindle
Published: December 2003
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Length: 168 pages
Genre: Cookbook
Why I Read: Want to learn about cooking Thai food
Read If You: Want to learn about cooking Thai food 😉 
Rating:  ★★★★ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon

Whoo, my first cookbook review! It’s been awhile since I read one straight through. The last time must have been in high school, when we were traveling through South Dakota and I purchased a fall recipes book.  I remember making some delicious, comforting foods from it… I should go back to it!  
Anyway. I chose this cookbook because I love Thai food and I really want to make it accessible in my home. I think it’ll be best for me to start small, learn the basics through a simplified cookbook like this, then build up my Thai cooking repertoire. Once upon a time, I was interested in making curries. I got a book from the library with recipes from around the world and I made one, but I quickly realized it was a tad ambitious for my abilities. 😛 So, after some exhaustive research (I saved a number of Thai cookbooks on GoodReads, not all as simple as this one), I chose this book as a starting point. I think that was a good idea. I felt reassured to know she lived in Thailand for a few years at least. In the introduction, she recounts her experience with Thai cooking and previously published cookbooks. McDermott decided to write this book in particular as her family began to grow and she “want[ed] to enjoy the dazzling flavors of Thai food even on a weeknight, to be able to cook Thai dishes as easily and happily and quickly as I make other favourite dishes”. She chose recipes for three different classes of food: A) intrinsically easy Thai food that Thai people cook at home, B) street food and restaurant dishes that Thai people don’t cook because they can easily buy them, and C) some complex dishes for which she found “reasonable shortcuts to a simpler but still wonderful version”. I had this book for over a year but I was always too busy with studying, and then preparing to move to Japan…soon I’ll be home with time on my hands to devote to cooking!
I like the cultural notes McDermott includes alongside each recipe, including the recipe’s name in Thai. One day if I feel more ambitious, I could look up McDermott’s other books to find perhaps more ‘authentic’ versions of these recipes. I also really appreciated the informative sections, which include “Useful Utensils for Cooking Thai Food”, “Techniques”, “A Thai Pantry” and “Mail-Order Sources for Thai Ingredients”. I made many highlights throughout the book, colour coding for general information, practical tips, and recipes to try. The recipes themselves seem clear and easy to follow. I saved 35 of the 70 recipes to try, which I think is a good proportion given that I skipped all the recipes that include fish or seafood (creatures from water = blechy) Here are some of the recipes I’m eager to make:

  • Meatballs in panaeng curry sauce (panaeng look chin neua sahp)
  • Rice soup with chicken, cilantro and crispy garlic (kao tome gai)
  • Beef and zucchini in red curry sauce (neua paht peht)
  • Pork with spicy green beans (moo paht prik king)
  • Rice noodles with lettuce and ground beef gravy (kwaytiow neua sahp)
  • Roasted eggplant salad with cilantro and lime (yum makeua yao)
  • Nun bananas in coconut milk (gluay buat chee)

I only spotted one odd thing – a beef salad recipe that called for chicken stock. It caught my eye because Pollan gripped about excess use of chicken stock in Cooked. I agree with him. Novice that I am, I think there must be better ways to get flavour than through tossing chicken stock in everything. At the very least, why add chicken stock to dishes that don’t contain chicken? When I make this recipe, I will probably just use water.

Can I review a cookbook without having made any of the recipes? I’ve done it anyhow. It’s hard enough for me to find familiar ingredients in Japanese store, let alone Thai ones. You know I’ll hit the ground running in September, when I’m back in familiar territory! 

The Bottom Line: If you love Thai food and want to learn how to enjoy it your own home, this is a good place to start.

Further Reading: 

  • I've never made Thai. I like the sound of the book!